State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

House lawmakers engage in extended fight over union contributions

Written by Katie Meyer, Capitol Bureau Chief | Dec 6, 2017 5:17 AM

Republican lawmakers are moving what they call a "paycheck protection" bill. (Photo by AP)


(Harrisburg) -- The state House has kicked forward a proposal to outlaw automatic deductions from state workers' paychecks for union payments that contribute to political activity.

Supporters call it a "paycheck protection" bill.

Though they had a lot on their agenda Tuesday, arguments on the measure took up most of the day.

Under current law, a nominal amount of taxpayer money is used to make automatic deductions for things like taxes, Medicare, or charitable donations.

Union dues are collected this way too, as are contributions to unions' political activities. Many Republicans say that's improper, since unions also lobby for Democratic causes.  

Butler County Republican Daryl Metcalfe said the bill is intended "stop the use of taxpayer resources from being used by some private political organization to collect their political money that's used to influence the outcome of elections."

A number of Democrats introduced amendments to call out what they see as hypocrisy.

"You can have a check-off for Aflac or Nationwide or you name the insurer. That's fine, despite the fact that they advocate for political causes that many in this room find abhorrent," said Montgomery County Representative Matthew Bradford, who tangled with Metcalfe several times on the floor.

Democrat Madeleine Dean, of Montgomery County, also noted that the state money used to collect political union contributions is negligible.

"The treasurer estimates that it is $100 statewide," she said.

That estimate came from former treasurer Rob McCord. Some Republicans have questioned its accuracy. Others argued that the problem was not purely financial, but ethical. 

No amendments passed, but the plan did.

It needs one more vote in the House before going to Governor Tom Wolf's desk.

He opposes it, and said it's an attempt to "ramrod protections for workers."

We hold ourselves to high standards of accuracy and fairness. That's why we have clarified a few things in this story to better reflect that the bill in question would impact payments to unions that go toward political action, not union dues in general. 

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